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Another Friend Down



I was running late.

My family and I had spent a little too much time at the palatial home of a firend in West Chicago, and I had to make a choice: Keep a lunch appointment with another friend in downtown Chicago, or hit the road for my mother's home in Indiana so we could stay on our vacation schedule.

I called my friend Allan Johnson, a top-notch critic at the Chicago Tribune, and told him I couldn't make the lunch date we'd planned for him to meet my family. And that was the last time I heard his voice.

I just found out a few minutes ago that Allan died Friday after collapsing from a brain hemorrhage three weeks ago. It wasn't as if we were the closest of friends, but Allan and I were linked by many things: a love for arts criticism, a love for journalism, a love for our new baby daughters and a focus on diversity in media.

When I met him, he had already spent 20 years at the Tribune, had led its coverage of the town's exploding stand-up comedy scene during the boom of the '80s, and was settling in as the second-string TV writer at the newspaper. In 2003, he was moved to the Tribune's Q section, and he was also teaching at several colleges.

Most lately, we'd traded emails over our mutual friend, Ken Parish Perkins and his resignation from the Fort Worth newspaper in a plagiarism scandal. We lamented how such a good friend and talented guy could fall so low. I never believed I would be mourning Allan's own death just a few weeks later.

I'm left with many thoughts: see your friends when you can, because you never know when its the last time. Treasure your time with good people. And worry about the shrinking number of black folks writing arts criticism these days. A confusing blizzard of reaction, I know.

Readers of this blog may not care so much about this. But Allan was a good guy I never knew as well as I wanted to, and I wanted to spend a little time talking about him here.

Rest in peace, my brother.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:35pm]


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